Canberra United players surrender mobiles to fight corruption

The fight against corruption in sport has spread to the W-League this season, with Canberra United players having their mobile phones locked in a metal box at games to protect the game from potential illegal activity.

As match-fixing claims engulf tennis, the W-League is now in line with the Football Federation Australia's anti-corruption code to protect the sport.

Canberra United players are asked to hand in their mobile phones as soon as they arrive at grounds on W-League game day.
Canberra United players are asked to hand in their mobile phones as soon as they arrive at grounds on W-League game day. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

W-League players have been asked this season to hand their phones to an official as soon as they arrive at venues, with the devices locked in a box until after the final whistle.

Teams can register three phones with FFA officials in the week leading up to games to get approval for the limited number of devices.

It's a first for the women's competition as officials get on the front foot against untoward activity and follows the same protocols used for the A-League and the National Youth Competition.

Canberra United will play Sydney FC in a semi-final at McKellar Park on Sunday as the defending champion aims for another grand final berth.


Capital Football and Canberra United chief executive Heather Reid welcomed the anti-corruption methods introduced this season, and said players are given a pre-season brief to ensure they are aware of the risks.

"One of the measures is to stop people sending messages about the team line-up or major injuries and any other situations that could lead to bets being plunged at the last minute after insider information," Reid said.

"All of our players and staff have to have their phones put in a locked box, the same with referees and match officials. They are held for the game by a security person.

"Every team prior to the season has to have an integrity session with a representative from the FFA. It talks about betting and the potential for [players] to be manipulated or drawn into an engagement.

"It also covers alcohol and drugs. It also addresses how some of those behind match-fixing groom athletes to bring them in and then a slip of information can lead to a significant outcome."

The tennis world has been shocked this week following a BBC-BuzzFeed report detailing alleged widespread corruption in the sport.

In the first nine months of last year there were 49 suspicious-activity alerts raised in tennis. That compares with just 16 alerts through the same period for all other sports, according to the European Sports Security Association report.

Tennis ACT officials approached spectators at two recent tournaments in Canberra to ask them to stop using mobile devices to prevent potential "courtsiding".

All W-League matches are monitored by Sportradar for betting and match-fixing purposes.

"Having a mobile and communications device policy is considered best practice and is one of a number of integrity measures we have in place for the [W-League]," said an FFA spokesperson.

"...FFA has Integrity Agreements with a large number of licensed betting operators in Australia. These agreements provide for the exchange of certain information for integrity purposes, including information regarding WWL matches and participants.

"Additionally, each year prior to the commencement of the [W-League] Season, FFA delivers an integrity and code of conduct education session in person to the players and team officials of each [W-League] club."

The profile of the W-League continues to grow with hopes of attracting up to 2500 fans to Canberra's semi-final.

"The issue of potential corruption and match-fixing information that is inadvertently leaked or deliberately leaked is ramped up. Taking away phones is one measure to safeguard the players, staff and coaches from any accusations," Reid said.

"It's education and training. Maybe some people will think it's extreme to take phones away, but it's a safeguard."


Sunday: Canberra United v Sydney FC at McKellar Park, 2pm. Tickets available from Capital Football.